As my second year of law school comes to a graceful close, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly these past 19 months have passed since I timidly walked into the University of Colorado Law School.
At this point, the 1Ls are either confused or ridiculously optimistic; the 2Ls are busy, stressed, in desperate need of sleep, and praying for employment; and the 3Ls are—for lack of a better description—completely over it.
As I take this time away from my Wills and Trusts reading (Thank you Professor Ryan for making this the most amusing class ever), I thought it would be good to reflect on the top three lessons I have learned now that I have completed 66% of the bright and shiny experience that is a legal education.
1. Attitude Adjustment
With the legal profession being such a relationship-driven field, this is a lesson I am consistently attempting to implement in my life. I’ll admit that when it’s 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, I have yet to crack open the casebook I swore to crack open two days ago, and Netflix is asking me whether I want to watch yet another episode of “Friends,” my attitude toward law school can look a little grim. However, positive people flock to positive people and if we spend a majority of these three years complaining about the experience we willingly signed many master promissory notes for, then it will have been for naught. The more people that want to be around or communicate with you and your gleaming personality, the broader your network becomes and the greater the chance that your prayers for employment will eventually be answered. So yes, it may be snowing Monday morning, you have 11 minutes to make it to your 8 a.m. Evidence class, and some driver with a California license plate may be driving at 0.4 MPH (I’m Californian, I can say that!), but take a deep breath, smile, and chill out. Your day will be better if you do.
2. Do What Scares and/or Bores You
When I arrived at law school orientation at CU I had one goal: to graduate first in my class, similar to at least 50% of the other 1Ls in the room. Although that particular goal is officially dead and has been laid to rest, many other goals have sprouted in its place. I yearn for the day when I’m no longer a law student but rather a practicing attorney. But in the mean time I have made it a priority to seek opportunities that will enhance my experience while here. My main method of doing so has been to avoid just playing to my strengths. At most law schools, it’s pretty easy to craft a second-and third-year schedule to avoid courses with which you seem not to connect.
But avoiding all that is uncomfortable seems like one of the easiest ways to demean the law school experience.
That discomfort or disinterest is a reason to take more, not fewer, courses that seem foreign to you in order to enhance your skills and make you appear more versatile in the “real world.” Plus, nine times out of 10, what you’re avoiding is probably going to be a topic on the bar exam anyway, so you can run, but you certainly can’t hide.
3. Go Outside. No seriously put the book down and go outside.
I try not to share statistics with my 0L friends who are preparing for law school this fall. I try not to tell them that lawyers have one of the highest rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and divorce. Instead, when they ask how they can start preparing for these upcoming three years, I tell them to make sure they go outside. This is usually met with a confused gaze accompanied by, “Of course I have to go outside, how else would I get to school?” What I mean is that during my 1L year I probably spent about 60 hours a week inside the law building studying, reading, outlining, eating all three meals, catching up on TV, and sometimes even sleeping. I’m not exactly sure why I paid rent for an apartment when I mainly used it for the mere purpose of showering and storage, but I often wish I could have done it differently.
It wasn’t until I was informed by my doctor that I had a major vitamin D deficiency and unusual blood pressure levels for someone my age when I realized that being a semi-permanent resident of the Wolf Law Building wasn’t improving my life in any way. I was still stressed beyond reason, feeling the strain and pressure of the supposed correlation between grades and the type of life you will receive based upon them. Neglecting my basic needs to obtain this badge of honor of suffering was ludicrous, so I started spending more time outside.
I started leaving textbooks at home and going on hikes, bike rides, and exploring this state I had chosen to live in, which just happened to be undeniably beautiful.
By no means am I saying that taking a walk in between classes or going on quick hike before starting that 40-page reading will alleviate the pressure felt from the deadlines, on campus interviews, and outlines, but it will put them on the backburner for a little while. And for the sake of your sanity, that’s ok.
By Deanna Alfred, a 2L at the University of Colorado Law School. Alfred is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she grew up. She earned a degree in English, emphasis in creative writing.